Cowboys new stadium a reminder of how to waste energy By Owen Glubiak Courtesy of Green SupplyLine (08/18/2009 11:27 AM EDT) "Everything is bigger in Texas" as the slogan goes on a T-shirt in the fan store of the new Dallas Cowboy's stadium. I couldn't think of how true that statement was in relation to the new stadium's carbon footprint. I recently just got back from a family wedding in Dallas, Texas. During our stay, we toured around the new Dallas Cowboy's stadium as my cousin has always been a big fan. The stadium is set to hold 80,000 people with the ability to expand to a 100,000. The structure is beyond big and resembles the alien aircraft in the 1996 film "Independence Day". We took a guided tour of the facility which needless to say was jaw-dropping and not in a good way. There seemed to be only one goal of this stadium: to break records. Largest this, the most number of that, tallest this, it was flat out disgusting at the enormity of resources that were wasted to make this structure. During the tour, I raised the question, "How much are the utility bills?" The tour guide giggled and said "I'll get to that in a minute". About 5 minutes later he pulled together the large group to announce what seemed like an accomplishment in his eyes. "The stadium averages roughly $200,000 in monthly utility bills," he claims. My brain went wild with figures as I tried to translate that into energy terms. Assuming that the electric bill will be the majority of the purchase i.e. air conditioning, lighting, and equipment, the total amount of energy consumed based on Texas's average commercial $/kWh is 2,036,560 kWh per month, or roughly 24,439,918 kWh per year. To give you some perspective, this is equivalent to the same amount of energy as the city of Santa Monica, CA (Pop. 88,000) uses per year. Why is a stadium that is only used for about 5 hours every other week during the NFL season consuming as much energy as an entire city? What really blew my mind is when I returned home to look into the stadium's environmental initiatives. According to the Sports Business Journal, "those goals include reducing solid waste by 25 percent, cutting energy use by 20 percent and saving 1 million gallons of water annually compared to what would be produced were green measures not in place." One of the first things I noticed was the lighting. They were incandescent bulbs in many of the fixtures. They couldn't even consider the most basic of approaches by using energy efficient lighting. The fact they were using conventional lighting these days, with so many efficient lighting options available is just incomprehensible and to put it bluntly, idiotic. The payback for more efficient lighting such as CFL's and LED's is less than a year and they last 10 times longer. The only positive to the lighting is the natural lighting from the operable wall windows but if you have a game at night then it negates it. It is one thing to claim that you are reducing energy consumption by not using conventional systems but I ask what conventional systems are they using? Conventional systems are largely undefined. Therefore, you can skew any data you would like in order to make it seem like you are going the "green route". What is even more hilarious about the environmental design is that they banked on the retractable roof and operable glass walls to make claims how they are improving their performance by having those open during the games. Well, our tour guide pointed out that they will only open the roof if it is above 76 degrees and the operable glass wall windows will be opened under the same temperature conditions and the wind speeds are less than 6 mph. Basically, they will only be able to use them during the very small time table of a winter that they have and the glass windows will almost never be open due to the low wind speeds that are needed in order for it to be viable. The bottom line is this stadium is just a symbol of excess. There is no discernible reason that a football stadium should be using as much energy as a city when it will be used as rarely as this stadium. Onsite renewable energy was probably never considered. Why they wouldn't consider geothermal heat & cooling? Considering the hole they probably had to dig to put the stadium in, they could have developed a geothermal exchange system. In addition, that roof is a tremendously large space in an area with an abundant amount of sun. When Jerry Jones is writing $2 million checks every other day, what is a few million for a PV system to help power the facility? The name of the game for this structure was decadence and extravagance and environmental performance was seen as a barricade to both of those. So they did the bare minimum and began tracking their performance and comparing it to "conventional ways", whatever that may be, but who knows if they will ever actually do anything to improve it. Then, there is the bigger question: what was wrong with the old stadium? Building more efficient and environmentally friendly structures is one thing (which the Cowboys didn't do) but conservation and not building that structure is even more environmentally friendly. Why not take that money and improve the old stadium? Retrofit it to be the most environmentally friendly existing sports structure there is to date. Instead, they are tearing it down and scrapping the millions of tons of useful material. The professional sports industry is increasingly becoming more and more unsustainable even beyond environmental sustainability. With every new elaborate and excessive structure that is built, the subsequent rising costs of the average ticket price and an evening at the game because of this new structure, and every black mark (such as the steroid scandal), the professional sporting landscape becomes more ridiculous and more unsustainable and eventually it could implode on itself and take the billions of fans and young athletes who love these sports down with it. It just plain confounds me how ridiculous the sports industry has gotten. The more troubling question is what will it take in order for them to turn things around? Will they see the future coming and start to clean up their act environmentally or will it take a total implosion? The rest of the world is focusing on energy efficiency, why isn't the sporting world really following suit? Only time will tell if these pillars of society will actually align with the mentality of the rest of the world. Owen Glubiak, Climate Solutions Advisor, is a part of the NativeEnergy. During his time at NativeEnergy, Owen has been responsible for calculating the emissions profiles for clients of all sizes, consulting with clients on emissions strategies, and managing strategic client relationships.